Cuban Bread

We are the Bread Baking Babes, and we love to bake bread. Sometimes we do other things too, which is why Ilva’s choice for us this month is a welcome addition to our repertoire. This Cuban Bread, from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, calls for a good amount of yeast and rolls the final proof into the baking step by starting the bake in a cold oven. This means we can have a delicious boule with a unique bronze-colored crust and a soft, close, sweet crumb in two hours from start to finish, leaving us time for various other things like working, spending time with our families, exercising, and hobbies. (My latest hobby is sweeping tiny crunchy ball bearings from every corner of the kitchen. If that’s not your thing, do not coat your bread with errant amaranth seeds, as I did. Stick to sesame.)

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Stollen Buddies

We Bread Baking Babes love the friends who bake with us each month. Yay for the Buddies who made room in their busy December schedules to bake these beautiful Stollen!

  • Gilad (Gilad Ayalon Vegan) made a vegan version by using apple puree and coconut oil instead of eggs and butter.
  • Judy (Judy’s Gross Eats) was disappointed with the recipe, but she did say it tasted great, and it looks wonderful to me!

Pandoro and Friends

2012, be warned: 2011 is a tough act to follow. The beautiful and exciting things that came my way in 2011 are too numerous to count, but Number Two on the list has to be the trip Jay and I took to Morocco and Venice in November (with Number One being our wedding a month later). And while the highlights of that trip are also too numerous to count, our day in Verona is on that list for sure.

The charming city of Verona is an easy 80-minute train ride from (equally charming) Venice, and we thought it would make a lovely day trip. Jay was thinking history, culture, architecture, photography. I — obviously! — was thinking Pandoro pans. I have been coveting genuine Italian pans for this star-shaped golden holiday bread forever, and they just can’t be found in the US. But Pandoro originated in Verona, so I was sure I could find some there.

And find them I did, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how I found them. I remembered that the lovely and talented Cinzia also hails from Verona, and when I emailed her to ask about where I might buy the pans, she not only came through with the name of a shop (Plurimix), but she came into the city to meet us! Over lunch and a slice of Nadalin (another Veronese holiday bread, reportedly the forerunner of Pandoro), I found Cinzia to be every bit as warm and delightful as her blog.

And that, my dear friends, is the real pleasure I derive from writing this blog: connecting with wonderful people all over the globe, whether face-to-face or through virtual pathways.  I can’t think of a nicer way to observe BreadBakingDay — the monthly event that celebrates baking and breaking bread together — than with Pandoro dedicated to Cinzia (who happens to be hosting BBD this month, too!), Zorra (creator of BBD), and all of my bread-baking friends everywhere.

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Stollen

Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …

A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes

B) I get married today

C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…

Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.

Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.

Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.

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Gibassier

Gibassier-wild-yeast

When I was a student at SFBI, if you had asked any of us for a short list of our favorite sweet breads, Gibassier would have been on it every time. To get an idea of our collective response to the mere mention of this regional brioche, delicately flavored with orange and and anise and enriched with olive oil, think Les Simpsons en Provence: “Mmmm…. Gibassier!”

There seems to be some disagreement about whether Gibassier and Pompe à ‘Huile — one of the thirteen Provençal Christmas desserts — are the same thing. I don’t know the answer, but why quibble? I’m pretty sure no one will complain if this bread winds upon your dessert table — at Christmas time or any other time, with or without twelve other sweets — or on your breakfast table or your coffee table.

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Bagel Miter Review and Giveaway

Cutting a bagel is dangerous business. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2008 there were 1,979 bagel-related emergency room visits. This makes bagels the fifth most dangerous food (behind chicken, potatoes, apples, and onions). If you’re partial to your fingers, I suggest a bagel-cutting aid.

I’ve used a guillotine-style bagel cutter for a long time, but sometimes it doesn’t give the cleanest cut. A serrated knife does a better job, but the risk of accidents is high, especially when your bagel is the right kind (that is, shiny-slippery-firm, not squishy-soft-pudgy). The good people at BigKitchen sent me this Ironwood Acacia Bagel Miter, and I was anxious to see if it would cut it.

Read on for my opinion, and a giveaway